Movie Review: Justice League Dark

justice-league-darkWhen innocent civilians begin committing unthinkable crimes across Metropolis, Gotham City and beyond, Batman must call upon mystical counterparts to eradicate this demonic threat to the planet. Enter Justice League Dark, reluctantly led by the Hellblazer himself, John Constantine. Like Batman, Constantine is a cunning, often cynical loner who is the best at his chosen profession – but quickly realizes the sinister forces plaguing the planet will require help from other supernatural alliances. Forming a new “league” with sorceress Zatanna, otherworldly Deadman, and Jason Blood and his powerful alter ego Etrigan the Demon, this team of Dark Arts specialists must unravel the mystery of Earth’s supernatural plague and contend with the rising, powerful villainous forces behind the siege – before it’s too late for all of mankind.

Constantine. Zatanna. Deadman. Swamp Thing. When I heard these characters were making their debut in the animated DC Comics movie universe, I was excited for the possibilities. After seeing Justice League Dark, that excitement has worn off.

jldark046974For those who haven’t seen the animated DC Universe, the interconnected movies have loosely followed the world created with DC’s New 52 with adapted stories that are pretty entertaining with each sporting good and bad aspects. This entry feels like it falls flat on its face with a story that never quite clicks and doesn’t quite work as set out.

Innocent individuals are committing crimes and it’s clear there’s something unnatural about how it’s all playing out. Batman is pointed towards an individual to help eventually bringing together a team of his own featuring Zatanna, Constantine, and Deadman. Batman is the focal point of this story, acting as the everyman observer for this strange world of magic and demons. He’s somewhat of a skeptic, playing the loner role in multiple ways. While we’re supposed to see this new world through Batman’s eyes, the fact the character isn’t personable to begin with is an issue. He’s distant, even to a point that the trio of new characters comment on it. And the serious Batman just doesn’t gel well with the full of personality Constantine, fast talking Deadman, and full of style Zatanna.

jldark032115There is a strong film within this, but that would jettison the OG Justice League and Batman instead focusing on the trio of Constantine, Deadman, and Zatanna, and going full horror with a much more mature style.

Instead of that strong film we get this group running around before it’s clear exactly who is behind what’s going on. We get glimpses of other characters like a woefully underused Swamp Thing and a distraction with Felix Faust, before the eventual reveal and big bad sitting behind everything. But that too isn’t much of a shock with the backstory thrown into the movie at the beginning. Add in Etrigan who’s treated more like a weapon than the interesting character he is.

Even with the muddled story, it’s not all bad. The characterization of Constantine is solid creating a cocky, womanizing, jackass, who spends as much time hitting on Zatanna as he does fighting demons. That’s helped by Matt Ryan who physically embodied John Constantine in the live action television show. Ryan sounds a bit different, but his reading of the lines is solidly entertaining. Camilla Luddington as Zatanna, Jason O’Mara as Batman, and Nicholas Turturro as Deadman all deliver solid performances with the script they’re given.

While I’m normally a big fan of the animated DC films, this one just didn’t work for me. The script feels like the “Justice League” aspect is a bit forced in. The use of Wonder Woman, Superman, etc., indicates that, like there was a struggle in how to bring together these two worlds. Instead, we get a movie that glimpses what could have been, but is filled with too much of what shouldn’t have. Potential is there and hopefully we get a stand alone sequel, but as presented this one is a pass.

Overall Rating: 6.75

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review